Keeping Your POV True

Point of view is on my mind this month. My friend Vaughn Roycroft wrote an excellent post on head-hopping that you should read. And  as I am deep in the midst of my own head-hopping with my current book, I thought I’d share my favorite tips here for any writers who might be going through the same process:

Give each character her own book. Go through your manuscript and cut and paste each character’s story into a single document. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to do (easier in Scrivener than in a regular word processing program) but it will help your writing in several ways. I find I’m much more likely to see inconsistencies this way —  Trudy hates the color blue in chapter  five but wears her favorite blue sweater in chapter 17, for example — than I would if I were just reading through each chapter in the larger document. Plus, creating a separate ‘book’  really helps you nail the voice of each character. And mixing up your work this way will help you with the overall editing, too.

Now read each character’s story aloud. You can do it yourself or paste the copy into a words-to-text program. Are the intonations, the slang, the speech patterns different? They should be. Can you close your eyes, listen to the reader, and know immediately who is speaking?

I’m not saying to go crazy with odd word choices or verbal tics to distinguish your characters. But think of it this way — if an email from a good friend arrived in your in-box with the sender’s name stripped out, you’d probably be able to figure out who sent it based on the way they ‘talked’ in the email, correct? You should be able to do the same thing with your characters.


Diversity in your characters’ voices — it’s a good thing.

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Liz Michalski


  1. ramanda429 on March 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

    That’s good advice. I find that is something I am struggling with as I write, well try to write my first book. It seems I am pretty inconsistent although I don’t mean to be.

    • liz on March 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      Hang in there, Ramanda — it’s a learning process for everyone. Good luck with the book!

      • ramanda429 on March 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

        thank you. I am doing research. I found that I was lacking too much info. I want it to be realistic. So I’ll see where this takes me.

  2. Vaughn Roycroft on March 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I love both of these, Liz. I’ve never tried the first, but I do read aloud, and that does help. I’ll have to try the second. Sounds intriguing. I am fortunate in that most of my characters are vastly different.

    Thanks so much for the shout out and the link! The two posts work well together, if I do say so. 🙂

    • liz on March 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks, Vaughn — and I have to admit, I thought they dovetailed pretty neatly myself! : )

  3. ddfalvo on March 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Great advice, Liz! Scrivener makes this easy to do with the meta-data option. I think my characters are different enough, but your example of the blue sweater makes a terrific point. That would be so easy to miss. :p

    • liz on March 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      I was a slow convert to Scrivener, Denise, but now I find it really helpful, particularly when I’m revising. Seeing one character’s story all in one place really seems to help me pick up on the details.

  4. Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) on March 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I wouldn’t have thought to physically move the chapters to check voice, but that’s genius.

    • liz on March 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      It is kind of a pain, Jan, but easier in Scrivener and it really does seem to help me. (I only do it once, when I’ve finished the manuscript’s first draft and done a general pass-through.)

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